When trying to find your perfect running shoe there’s always a question of which brand is right for you. Nike vs New Balance running shoes is another breakdown of proprietary technologies, fit, and feel. Both brands have a long history, things people love and things people dislike.
Nike has been dominating the elite running world for many years, so the question is do they have shoes for the rest of us?
I admit to having a deep love for New Balance as I helped to create their first ever online Wear Test program back in my consulting days!
And for many years I was not a fan of Nike, but about 3 years ago I discovered a Nike shoe that has become one of my go-to shoes. I’ve had 8 pairs now, you’ll see it listed in the comparisons!
The Main Differences New Balance vs Nike
Nike and New Balance have a similar range of shoes, but a very different fit and feel. Maybe some of the difference is simply in the way that they market, which makes you feel differently about the gear.
I break down the differences in more detail below, but here’s a quick overview:
New Balance Running Shoes
- Offers wider shoes than most brands
- Thicker midsole provides more stability
- Makes more shoes in the US than any other brand
- Also big in the athleisure market
Nike Running Shoes
- More narrow fit, especially in the heel and midsole
- Tend to run smaller in width and length than many other brands
- A larger focus on newest and trendiest technology to “improve running economy”
- Known across a wide variety of sports and highly visible in competition
I’ve worn both brands and will add some personal thoughts, along with comparable models from each brand at the end.
New Balance vs Nike Feature Comparison
Both brands have been around for a very long time and are leaders in running shoe design. They both offer various technologies to aid with comfort, support, stability, and cushion.
They differ in both fit and technology.
Here is a breakdown of each shoe based on the components buyers need to consider when purchasing a running shoe.
It’s gonna get a little TECHY…so you can just skip on down to the specific model comparison if you want, but personally if I’m shelling out $150 for shoes, I kinda want to know why.
The lifespan of shoes from both companies is fairly comparable.
- New Balance shoes have a life expectancy ranging from 300 to 500 miles, or three to six months, depending on your monthly mileage.
- Nike’s Vapor Fly is only going to give you about 200 miles, but most shoes are in the 300-500 mile range
Determining when to replace running shoes, of course, all depends on your gait, weight, and whether you run mostly on trail or road.
New Balance uses what is called a Hypoknit upper which offers the moisture wicking and breathability you want in your long run shoe.
Nike has transitioned to FlyKnit for many of its shoes. It’s a more form fitted style, which means some areas are designed to be thinner and breathable while others are thicker for support.
Across MOST running shoes, the only time you now won’t find them to be breathable is if you get to Gore-Tex shoes that are designed to be water repellent or water resistant.
New Balance is one of the few running shoes that offer wide widths and go up to a lot more sizes. This is one reason they are so popular among workers.
Note, they also offer 2A which is extra narrow. And like most brands, they have a shoe finder to help you decide what might be the best fit.
Additionally, their shoe numbering system actually means something!! The last 2 digits tell you about the type of shoe.
40 (Optimal Control):
Shoes in this category provide superior control, stability, cushioning and support for biomechanical needs, such as pronation or low arches (e.g., 940, 1540).
50 (Fitness Running):
For training on roads or for indoor workouts, the 50 series offers the combination of visual attitude and innovation with the responsiveness and power athletes need.
Designs that offer industry-leading stability to reduce pronation while also providing unparalleled cushioning and comfort (e.g., 860).
70 (Light Stability):
The perfect combination of stability and speed, all in a lighter, sleek profile designed for runners who train at a faster pace (e.g., 770).
For high-mileage runners who require light shoes and the protection of superior cushioning (e.g., 1080).
For faster runners who want every advantage, including a superior ride and fit. The choice styles for professional and nonprofessional speed and distance runners (e.g., 890).
Nike running shoes are often reported to run small.
They do not offer the variety of widths that you’ll see with New Balance. But if you like the fit, you’ll find it fairly consistent across models.
This is an older, yet still very USEFUL graphic from the Huffington Post.
I forget we may not all know the lingo when talking about different components of the shoe and why they matter.
New Balance utilizes Fresh Foam and FuelCell foam depending upon the shoe. Both are designed to provide a lot of cushion without the weight. FuelCell is a nitrogen infused foam which provides additional softness and responsiveness.
Nike started putting air in their shoes back in 1977 to improve cushioning.
“Nike Air technology consists of pressurized air inside a tough yet flexible bag and provides more spring without compromising the structure.”
And since the 90’s they’ve been recycling waste material from production in to new shoes. They continue to look at this sustainability in developing new shoes.
New Balance utilizes a couple of tools to provide stability. The first is that similar to HOKA all of their shoes have a bigger platform, which naturally means more stability.
Then they have an S Curve to help with that side to side stability and a Ultra Heel that flares away from the ankle for comfort, while keeping your heel firmly in the shoe.
Nike does say their stability shoes are slightly wider and also designed with a curve that will help with heel to toe transitions.
As you may know, I’m not a huge fan of stability shoes for most runners. I am not finding a big difference in brands, they are all focused on preventing that foot roll and often feel a little stiffer.
New Balance prices range between $80 to $130, while Nike start at a slightly higher price at $120 to $180.
The most popular models for both brands are priced toward the higher range. Carbon fiber shoes and often trail shoes will go beyond those rates, like the Vapor Fly which is over $200.
You’ll notice that every brand offers a range and this is indeed due to a difference in technology and where they sell the shoe. They know that the big box store can sell the shoe with less in it, while the local running store needs to be best for dedicated runners.
Nike Vs New Balance Running Shoe Models
Now that you know more about each brand, let’s look at their top models in each of the main categories. There’s no winner declared here because all are great shoes, it’s just about which one is best for your foot.
Did you notice I even said the brands in reverse order this time…seriously no favorites, I have run in both brands many different times over the years.
Stability Running Shoe
Another shoe utilizing their great react cushion and the wrap around feel of the flyknit upper.
It has a slightly higher arch and more room in the toebox than most Nike running shoes.
This is what they call a stability neutral shoe, which is probably more in line with what I’d recommend. It’s not a firm and will not be over correcting your foot strike. It has guiderails as most stability shoes do, but without losing the softness.
With their newest Fresh Foam X it makes for a lighter stability shoe, while still offering the motion control and responsiveness you need. When a shoe is too plush, it’s hard to provide the stability in the arch that prevents your foot from falling inward.
It also uses their Ultra Heel for additional locked and loaded feeling in the shoe.
Neutral Running Shoe
I am currently on my 8th pair of this shoe model, so it’s fair to say that I’m a fan.
Lightweight (7oz), with a decent amount of cushion I’ve found it truly comfortable for training runs up to and including the marathon. The Flyknit means that it really fits to the foot, which is great unless you want to put in an insole.
In some of them I slipped in an insert no trouble, others I just couldn’t quite get enough room for the top of my foot to not have too much pressure. No rhyme or reason to the difference.
It is a 9mm drop which is a little higher than I tend to run in most of the time, but for whatever reason doesn’t feel like it.
Read a full Nike Epic React Review >>
While some runners are flocking to carbon plated shoes, we simply don’t want those as our every day trainers.
We want something that is solid and dependable like this neutral shoe that also has a great wide toebox, allowing you to get full power out of those feet.
It’s going to have enough cushion for long runs without being overly plush and still providing just a hint of stability with the bigger platform. I can concur from my running in fresh foam that you absolutely notice the cushion, but it’s still a solid shoe.
File this under your great every day trainer.
Cushioned Running Shoe
One of their longest running models that runners come back to time and again.
It has enough cushion to make it great for long runs, but isn’t so plush that you lose the spring you want off the ground.
Reviewers have said the newest model has an improved upper for more foot space, including in the toebox.
The Nike ZoomX might be the most cushioned shoe they have, but it’s also a higher price point and a model I don’t know that will stick around as long. It’s never fun to find the shoe we love and then have it taken away.
Listen, I like a good cushioned shoe and this one fits the bill.
The most recent version 11 of the shoe is getting rave reviews as it is slightly lighter and has the knit upper, which makes the shoe simply feel like it’s hugging your foot a bit more.
That’s a feature that drew me to the Nike Epic React which you’ve seen me wear on repeat for years.
Carbon Fiber Plate Shoes
Are they cool new technology, yes. Do they last as long as your other shoes nope.
So if you want to test these out use them for speed work and then race day!
More About New Balance
New Balance actually started in 1906 as an arch support company! But their focus on feet is one of the reasons they do offer more sizes and widths than most other brands.
And that’s exactly what the Boston based company focused on until 1960. Athletes had begun using the arch supports and they decided it was time to venture in to sneakers.
The Trackster was the first shoe with a rippled outsole that provide additional traction. It caught on as a track and cross country shoe regionally.
But in 1976 the company released it’s first shoe with the well known N logo on the side and it was a success. They stuck to their goal of providing shoes for a variety of feet and took advantage of the 80’s running boom.
More About Nike
Is there anyone who doesn’t know the story of Nike yet?? The brand actually started in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports and didn’t take on the name of Nike the Greek Goddess until 1971.
If you haven’t read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, it’s a wonderful book that gives you so much insight to the building of a company and a brand.
I fully understand not everyone loves Nike due to many of the practices we’ve seen with their athletes. I’m just here to provide details about the gear, you make those judgements.
In 1972, the Nike Waffle Racer was handed out at the Olympics and things really started to take off. One of these original pairs of shoes recently sold for almost $500,000!
From there they have continued to inovate and consistently produce new models of shoes for a variety of sports.
Nike has also dominated the marketing game.
How to Choose Nike or New Balance?
Nike and New Balance are two extremely well known running shoe brands, but more important than brand is the fit of the shoe.
Your gait and feet will change over time and you may need to change shoes.
This is also why I recommend rotating through several pairs of shoes at once.
And remember, just because these are two of the most well known brands on the market, there are still plenty of other shoe brands to select from if neither New Balance nor Nike has the right shoe for you.
Keep in mind that shoe design can change, even with the same model, so always assess how the shoe fits every time you replace a pair.
For more help selecting the right shoe for you, don’t worry, I’ve got you:
- Best Trail Running Shoes
- Top 5 Marathon Running Shoes
- Asics vs HOKA
- ASICS vs Brooks
- Best Running Shoes
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